Chance encounter leads to the chance of a lifetime

Chance encounter leads to the chance of a lifetime

How former US Navy SEAL, Shannon Rusch, reframed what's important and possible

Shannon Rusch, former Navy SEALBy chance encounter, I met a man that changed my life forever.  As we were preparing for our nationwide rollout of our new company identity and vision for the future, we knew we needed a keynote speaker that would captivate and motivate our audience. This moment was pivotal and we needed a speaker that could match the gravity of the situation.  We were struggling to find the right person for the event when one of my best friends called to tell me about the most amazing motivational speaker he’s ever heard, the speaker that day was Shannon Rusch. They just had their global sales meeting and he said at the beginning of his speech, Shannon had everyone welled up with tears and by the end, you were ready to take on the world.  My friend said he had never felt more motivated to embrace challenges and not only persevere but succeed. And Shannon delivered just that for us. A year later and our teams are still talking about the impact he had on them that day.

Shannon Rusch, a former Navy SEAL, has made a career after the military working with suicidal veterans through his SEAL Swim Charities, as well as a motivational speaker delivering his Warrior’s Mind talk to corporations and middle to high school age children across the US.  His story is both humbling and motivating and his message resonates with adults and children alike.  

Since our first chance encounter, I’m now proud to call Shannon a dear friend.  We have worked together on many things both personally and professionally and the more time we spend together the more respect I have for the man and what he has achieved.  His no fail mentality is contagious and has pushed me and my teammates to eliminate excuses, to fail forward and meet our objectives. 

What are your top three?

In one of our coaching calls he asked what were the three most important things in life to me.  As I rambled on and struggled for the answer he was quick to deliver his top three. It was so crystal clear to him what mattered most in his life and nothing was going to get in the way of him prioritizing them above all else.  He challenged me to spend all my time thinking about this because without knowing what was most important to me how would I know if I was living a fulfilled life. After much reflection, Family, Friendships and Fitness are mine.

As I rambled on and struggled for the answer he was quick to deliver his top three. It was so crystal clear to him what mattered most in his life and nothing was going to get in the way of him prioritizing them above all else.
- Ryan Menke, SVP Sales + Marketing, OFS   

It is the last of the three that drove a couple of us at work to start a little fitness accountability club to get us back on the right track.  Rules are simple: workout a minimum of thirty minutes per day, twenty days per month or pay $50 into the kitty. At the end of the year, the person with the most days of exercise gets whatever is in the pool and donates that money to the charity of their choice.  This simple little club continues to add members and I’m proud to say it has some of us in the best shape of our lives. I guess it was that feeling of getting stronger each month that lead to me to asking Shannon if I could join the hardest fitness challenge I’ve ever attempted.

Hudson River SEAL swim

The conversation was pretty simple.  

Me:  “Shannon, do you think I can do this?”

Shannon:  “I don’t know can you?”

Me:  “I feel confident with the pushups and I will get there on the swim and the pull-ups.”

Shannon:  “Ok, let me make a call.”

Shannon:  “You’re in.”

Me:  “Really?” (with a bit of a pit in my stomach) “What did you tell them?”

Shannon:  “Told them you wouldn’t die...haha!  Train up, but don’t worry I will be your swim buddy.”

So here we are.  On August 3rd, a team of Navy SEALs and one ginger civilian, nicknamed "Shark Bait," will be doing the first ever sanctioned swim across the Hudson River in New York City to raise awareness and money for veteran homelessness.  Our journey will embark from Liberty Park where we will swim a half mile to the Statue of Liberty. At the statue, we will drop and do 100 push-ups and 20 pull-ups to honor our freedom and civil liberties. From there we will swim another half mile to Ellis Island where we will drop another 100 and another 20 to honor all immigrants who came to this country for a better life and for our nation’s incredible diversity.  From there we will swim the longest leg of the day, one mile, to Battery Park. Once we exit the water we will run to America’s Response Monument at the 9/11 Memorial and do our last 100 push-ups and 20 pull-ups to honor all men and women who perished on 9/11 and since then fighting the war against terrorism.  It is still hard to fathom that just a short year after first meeting over tacos in High Point, NC, Shannon has so graciously invited me, an outsider, to participate in such a historic event.

The gravity of knowing other SEALs call this event “an epic swim that they better train hard for” is at times overwhelming, but then that same pressure turns into motivation to be vulnerable; to train hard, and to do everything I can to raise as much awareness and money as possible for these selfless veterans.
- Ryan Menke, SVP Sales + Marketing, OFS   

This is truly a historic occasion and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to be invited to take part.  I’m asking you [no, I’m challenging you] to show your support and join Shannon and I in making a donation that shows these men and women how much we appreciate the sacrifices they have made so that we can enjoy the freedoms that only America provides.

To help get our veteran homeless off the streets; get them the mental health treatment they deserve; and help them transition home please donate by clicking the link below.

I’m beyond scared of sharks, so my friends decided to call this "project shark bait" (maybe I need to rethink "friendship" in my top 3?). Fitness is something I do, but it has led to new family and friends that I’m forever grateful to have in my life. I can’t thank my wife and 3 kids enough for their support, laughter and cheers...they are my life swim buddies and they make shark bait very, very happy.  

Humbly Yours, 


Ryan Menke
SVP Sales + Marketing at OFS

About the author: Ryan is the oldest of four siblings that represent the fourth generation of leadership at OFS.  He has worked in every capacity except Finance over his 15+ years with the company and currently oversees Sales + Marketing for the family business. He is passionately curious and never idle, constantly exploring ways to the change the alchemy of his team, the company and our industry. His greatest accomplishment is the three beautifully wild children he and his wife created.  He loves to be outdoors and exploring new places that push his boundaries.